Salam Street Expressway Reopens, Improving Traffic

Big transportation news as Abu Dhabi’s Salam Street expressway finally reopened! Well…only from Hamdan (5th) to Al Falah (9th) Streets. Still, traffic has been running smoothly, and businesses and residents are happy, per The National.

Traffic on the Salam Street Expressway, via The National.

The AED 5 billion megaproject — 2 km of surface roads, 3.1 km of tunnel — is slated to fully open early next year, after four years of construction. I’m eager to see if Salam will become a “complete street” with lanes for buses, trams and bikes.

High-speed rail could help transport people too, but curiously financing it is the main problem in the GCC, according to a Construction Week, citing a report by media group Terrapinn. It’s probably more difficult to change car culture, but Saudi Arabia is building light rail and high-speed rail so it can be done.

Dubai, which already has an incredibly efficient metro, now will be getting a master plan for 2020 plus a new planning commission. (Construction Week) Perhaps they’re taking notes from Abu Dhabi’s Plan 2030, which we looked at yesterday, as the capital hosted the Spanish city of Marbella to talk about urban planning. (Zawya)

Elsewhere in the region…

There are tons of new infrastructure projects in Iraq. Baghdad’s new metro is in the early planning stages, funding for reconstruction of the historic city of Babylon and the Dutch are helping rebuild the country’s ports. (Construction Week)

In neighboring Iran, could neighborhood cinemas close? The government may end electricity subsidies. (The National) Another neighbor, Turkey, is hosting a cool photo festival in Bursa, attempting to bridge West-East divides. (NYT Lens)

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Abu Dhabi Plan 2030

How do you plan a city that’s expected to triple or quintuple its population in less than 20 years? (The emirate’s population was 2 million in 2010, per SCAD.) How about if this same city is springing from the desert, with no infrastructure in place?

It’s an exciting challenge. But for Abu Dhabi, the city described above, there’s an ambitious and far-sighted framework in place: Plan 2030. Two different but interconnected plans (one economic, one urban planning) guide development. Intriguingly it’s for the whole emirate, so there are also plans for Al Ain, Al Gharbia aka Western Region, and Abu Dhabi’s forthcoming Parisian-styled Capital District.

Five themes weave together the urban plan: Environment, Society, Culture and Economy…or as the nifty video shows, four themes: Green, Live, Work, Connect.

Either way, the Urban Planning Council (UPC)’s goal is “to create an authentic Arab city” that “will be owned by the people of Abu Dhabi, it will become an inspiring image of its collective vision for a harmonious, diversified, culturally rich, stable and sustainable society.”

Leading global design/engineering/planning firm KEO International Consultants is making the master plans for the Capital District; and the suburbs of Khalifa City A, Khalifa City B and Mohammed Bin Zayed City (green on the map below).

I’m most excited for the variety of transit options — metro by 2016, tram, bike lanes, walking and water taxis! The National reports that a 5-year update is slated for 2012.